I am a card-carrying member of the GOP, primarily because I reside in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As a fiscal conservative, I find myself agreeing more with the Libertarian platform, but it is not in my best interests to register as one. The Keystone State is not known for being groundbreaking in anything political, as in we are largely behind the curve. We’re one of a handful of “control” states, where the Commonwealth enjoys a virtual monopoly on the sales of the wines and spirits. The computerized polling stations are still only partially implemented state-wide, and we still rely on paper tallies to certain extent in most counties. We’re followers, not leaders, for the most part. But, there is one thing that some here complain about that we actually do right. We have closed primaries – we can only vote for candidates running in the party we are actually registered to vote.
That is how it should be everywhere. It is the entire point of a primary. The election is held so that the members of a given party can choose their candidates for the general election. And we rarely have even one candidate for many offices that is registered as Libertarian. There are rarely any candidates for any of the “third parties” recognized here, including Independent, Green, and Socialist. And now there is talk of former Gov. Gary Johnson fighting to be on the ballot here, presumably to “send a message”. My question is, who does Johnson want to send that message to? Obama? Romney?
“A former George Bush campaign insider told us, ‘Your Libertarian Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson may determine who wins this Presidential campaign,’” Howell wrote. “You and I and our fellow Libertarians can seize this huge opportunity – IF we’re ready for the last 6 weeks before Election Day.”
That’s from Carla Howell, the Libertarian Party executive. Now, either Howell is extremely stupid, or she sincerely wants to hand the White House to Obama for a second term. If that is what the Libertarian party leadership stands for, I wonder what the rank and file Libertarian voters really think about that. Maybe she drank the same Kool-Aid Rand Paul has, and views the political landscape with the same lens. As Ramesh Ponnoru already observed, it is facile to assume that Libertarian views on social issues would virtually guarantee more moderate Democrat and Independent votes in traditionally blue states. For one thing, it ignores what I refer to as “brainless voting” – the ability of voters to simply choose “straight ticket” instead of actively choosing in each race. It is a depressing fact, but there is still at least a plurality of voters in many precincts that know nearly nothing about the candidates and issues they are voting on in a given election – they simply cast a ballot on party lines. That alone makes a case for the resurrection of poll tests, not to exclude a given race, but to exclude individuals that don’t bother learning anything about the people or offices they are choosing.
And there lies one of the major reasons why we still have a two-party system. History tells us where the current Libertarian movement is during this election season. Johnson could go down in history as the GOP’s Ralph Nader. Eye Desert made the observation that Republicans need to start listening to Libertarians, and most importantly, he has pointed out two possible outcomes if Romney does not win. If the GOP blames Libertarians, it could spell the end of the party. If not, it could mean a stronger, big-tent conservative party. It’s a solid thesis, and is nothing new. Barry Goldwater predicted the potential demise of the Republican Party years ago. He was there for the beginning of the takeover of the party by religious leaders, and the rise of social conservatism as we know it now. And Goldwater knew that would cause rifts within the conservative movement. Add in the big government spending that has been adopted by the GOP over the years, and that is a toxic mixture that has given rise to this latest growth in popularity for the Libertarian Party, and the Tea Party.
But, we’re not there, yet. The Libertarian message is growing in popularity, but it is not enough. Until it makes sense for voters in states like Pennsylvania to switch their parties to the Libertarian side, we’re not there yet. And, sad but true, until the Libertarian Party sheds its fringe image due to people like Ron and Rand Paul, we won’t see multiple candidates up for election in closed primaries, like we do for the Democratic and Republican parties. While I would greatly enjoy seeing the GOP forced to address its problem with overspending and overly invasive legislative objectives in the name of saving everyone’s souls, we can’t afford four more years of Obama, period. It boils down to this – right idea, but absolutely the wrong time. Sure, it might feel nice to buck the system, and vote for Johnson this November. However, if supporters of Johnson end up handing Obama a second term, then what? I don’t agree with Eye Desert on this one. If the Libertarian Party ends up getting blamed for a Romney loss this fall, the GOP will destroy the Libertarians, rightfully so. It’s what the Democratic Party should have done to Nader and the Green Party, but unlike that party, losing the Libertarian Party would be a real loss. Since it’s becoming fairly clear that the Republican establishment can’t seem to play well with the Tea Party, it seems that is where the work needs to be done. Imagine the political landscape in 2016 if the Libertarians and Tea Party join forces. Now, that is how you build a relevant third party in this country!